LIFE AND LABORS
REV. ISRAEL SYDNEY PICKENS
By Rev. G. R. THOMAS,
Stated Clerk of the Memphis
Presbytery of the Cumberland
WITHE DEPOT, TENNESSEE
CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN PUBLISHING
41 UNION STREET
(Transcribed by Charles Pickens, 1999)
"Sold by order of the Memphis Presbytery,
for the benefit of superannuated ministers, and the families of
deceased ministers of said Presbytery."
LIFE AND LABORS
REV. ISRAEL SYDNEY PICKENS
There is, perhaps, no man living or dead who
has labored as long and as faithfully, or that has contributed as
much to establish the cause of Christ under the auspices of the
Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the territory now known as that
of the Memphis, Presbytery, as did the late and lamented Rev.
Israel Sydney Pickens. His entire ministerial life was spent
in this district, the history of which runs back almost to the beginning
of our Church operations in this country.
Mr. Pickens was born in Abbeville District,
South Carolina, June 5, A. D. 1799. His parents, Andrew and Margaret
Pickens, were pious and exemplary members of the Presbyterian Church,
but after moving to Tennessee, they joined the Cumberland Presbyterian
Church, in the communion of which they spent the remnant of their
long and useful lives.
Andrew Pickens, Esq., was a soldier in the Revolutionary
war, and received a wound in his knee, at the famous battle of Bunker
Hill, which disabled him for active service. He was tendered a discharge,
but preferring to remain in the service of his country, he was appointed
to drive a baggage wagon until he was able to bear arms again. He
survived the war and lived in the enjoyment of his country's peace
- purchased, in part, at the expense of his own blood - for more
than fifty years; but was always lame from the effects of his wound.
The fruit of his marriage with Miss Margaret Gillespie was twelve
children, eight sons and four daughters; all of whom became members
of the Presbyterian Church, except the three youngest - two sons,
Robert and Israel, and one daughter - who became members of the
Cumberland Presbyterian Church. "Uncle Bob," as we all loved to
call him, was a ruling elder in the Church for nearly fifty years,
and was a man eminently useful in his day and generation. He was
always considered a "host" in a revival of religion, and made himself
exceedingly useful at camp and protracted meetings. He frequently
represented his congregation in the judicatures of the Church, and
was always a wise Councilor. The writer has a very precious remembrance
of the occasion upon which he first met "Uncle Bob". He was on his
way to the first meeting of the West Tennessee Synod, after the
late war between the States, which met at Mount Tabor, Madison County,
Tennessee, in October 1865.
I had called at the house of the Rev. Joseph
Pope, to spend the night. Soon after my arrival, there was a buggy
halted in front of the gate, bearing two venerable looking men,
with long flowing white beard and hair.
They were recognized on sight by our host, with
whom they had come oft victors in many a hard battle waged in the
name of the Lord, and for the up-building of his kingdom. They were
soon met by him and his family, and made welcome to their king and
generous hospitality. While their happy greetings were in course
of exchange, I was told that they were "Uncle Bob" and "Uncle Israel"
Pickens. I felt that I was upon the threshold of an acquaintance
with two men, filling some of my early conceptions of two prophets
of the Lord, going up to Mount Zion to consult in reference to the
best interest and prosperity of God's Church. Peace to the ashes
of "Uncle Bob," for at the age of eighty-one years he rests from
his labors and his works follow.
Andrew Pickens, Esq., lived to the great age
of ninety-one years, and departed this life September 15, 1844.
His wife lived to the good age of 67 years, and died August 13,
1830. Their home for many years was with their youngest son - Israel
Sydney. Light be the turf that grows over their graves, for their
fruits will live to enrich the church for generations to come.
When the father of Mr. Pickens came from South
Carolina and settled in Tennessee, the country was quite new, and
the facilities for an education were very poor, and he was denied
the privileges and advantages of well-regulated schools. But from
constant study at home, with the advantages of an occasional three
months' school in the neighborhood, he obtained what was denominated
in those days a good English education.
He was united in marriage to Miss Sallie Rutledge,
of Lawrence County, Tennessee, September 10, 1818, with whom he
lived in great peace nearly fifty-nine years. Mother Pickens still
lives at the old homestead in Fayette County, Tennessee. She told
the writer not long since that Mr. Pickens never gave her a cross
word in his life. She told me that in the early part of his ministry,
when by order of his Presbytery, he would be engaged in missionary
work, he would be from home sometimes nearly a month, and that preachers
in those early days of the Church in this country had to ride their
jaded horses over a vast territory, and swim the creeks and rivers
in order to reach their scattered appointments. It was her custom
from the first to meet him at the gate on his ever glad return,
and say, "Well, my dear, you have come again." His answer would
always be, "Yes, dear, in the providence of God I have never gone
away but that I have been permitted to return." "Yes," she would
say, "but the time will come when you will go away and not return
to me again." "And sure enough he has gone away never to return
to me again; but thanks be to God I can go to him." She said she
knew it could not be very long until she would be allowed to join
him in the bright world to come. While she thus, with swimming eyes
and bleeding heart, talked of her departed treasure, it seemed that
heaven was near at hand.
The fruit of his happy marriage was five sons
and three daughters, all of whom were dedicated to God in baptism
in infancy, and all of whom became worthy members of society and
honored and useful members of the Church, except the youngest son,
who was accidentally shot and killed by a neighbor boy while out
bird hunting, at the age of sixteen years. The remaining four sons
became elders in the Church of their parents, and two of their daughters
became wives of elders in the same Church. Who would dare undertake
to estimate the amount of good resulting to the Church and the world
from this happy union of young hearts and hands in the midst of
Soon after their marriage they became connected
with a school enterprise, known as the "Charity Hall Establishment,"
in the Chickasaw nation. Rev. Robt. Bell, who belonged to the second
generation of ministers in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was
I charge of the enterprise. Mr. Pickens devoted a part of his time
to teaching, and the remainder to the manufacture of bridles, saddles,
and harness. In this way he was enabled to make himself very useful.
Mrs. Pickens superintended the boarding department, and taught the
Indian girls all sorts of house-work. In this way they were both
employed for several years. By this means the red sons and daughters
of the forest were domesticated, and taught the principles of religion
and civil government, and here were, doubtless, laid, deep and broad,
the foundations of many a religious life, which has resulted in
lasting good to the race and to the world.
During their connections with this enterprise
of the Church, in the year 1824, there was a protracted meeting
held at the hall by the Revs. Robert Bell, Robert Donnell, and Wm.
Barnett. At this meeting Mr. And Mrs. Pickens both professed religion,
and were received into the church by Mr. Bell.
The reader would very naturally infer that they
were religiously inclined before this, as their connection with
"Charity Hall," a religious institution, would very naturally show.
This, however, was the beginning of that long life of usefulness
and devotion to God and his Church that has contributed so much
to the upbuilding of his Zion in this country.
Shortly after Mr. Pickens and his wife embraced
religion, and joined the church, he moved with his family to West
Tennessee, and settled on Wolf River, twelve miles south of Somerville.
Here he bought land, spread his tent, and built his first cabins.
The country was then rude and wild, and sparsely settled, and they
had to take their share in what falls to the lot of those who follow
the tide of emigration, that ever spends itself on its western bound,
in order to lay the foundations of civil and religious society.
At the time Mr. Pickens moved and settled in this country, the whole
of West Tennessee was included within the bounds of the Hopewell
Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. That Presbytery
met at Hull's school-house, Madison County, Tennessee, April 6,
1830. Rev. James Stewart was Moderator, but as he did not reach
the place of meeting in time, the opening sermon was preached by
the Rev. Richard Beard, from Col. I. 28. The members present were
- Revs. James Stewart, Richard Beard, Reuben Burrow, Robert Baker,
Wm. A. Briant, Anthony Lambert, James H. Walker, Thomas Bone, W.
H. Bigham, and Thomas P. Stone. Members absent - Revs. John Malloy,
Wm. Henry, and Wm. Bumpass. The minutes show that on Thursday, Bros.
I. S. Pickens and Edmond E. Mitchenor were received under the care
of the Presbytery, and that I. S. Pickens was ordered (this was
the language used in those days) to prepare a written discourse
or sermon to be read at the next meeting of the Presbytery, from
St. John, third chapter and third verse. Of the noble and honored
thirteen ministers that composed this Presbytery when Mr. Pickens
was received a candidate, only three remain, namely, the venerable
Dr. Beard of Lebanon, Tenn., and for the last quarter of a century,
Professor of Systematic Theology in Cumber-land University, the
venerable Mr. Lambert, of Mississippi, and the venerable Mr. Stone,
of Arkansas. The rest have been called from their labors on earth
to their rewards in heaven.
The year following the date of his reception
as a candidate for the ministry, the Hopewell Presbytery met in
the town of Bolivar, Hardeman County, Tenn. The opening sermon was
preached by the late Rev. Reuben Burrow, from 1 Tim. Iii. 15. Members
present, Revs. Reuben Burrow, Robert Baker, John Malloy, Wm. H.
Bigham, Wm. A. Briant, James H. Walker, Thomas Bone, James Sampson,
Anthony Lambert, John B. McKinney, and Thomas P. Stone. On Saturday,
March 12, 1831, the Presbytery proceeded to license I. S. Pickens,
W. C. Lane, and Edmond E. Mitchenor, to preach the gospel within
its bounds or wherever God in his providence might cast their lots.
In the fall of 1831 the Franklin Synod, of which
Hopewell Presbytery was a part, proceeded to divide the territory
of the Hopewell Presbytery, and constitute two new Presbyteries,
viz.: the Forked Deer and the Hatchie, and Mr. Pickens, now a licensed
probationer for the holy ministry, fell within the bounds of the
Hatchie Presbytery. In the following May the General Assembly constituted
the West Tennessee Synod.
Mr. Pickens was ordained by the Hatchie Presbytery,
at the house of Eld. John D. White, Shelby county, Tennessee, on
the ____ day of March, 1834. From the date of his licensure, March
1834, until the date of his death, December 12, 1876, his history
has become so connected and so interwoven with the history of the
Church of his early choice in this district, that it would be difficult
to write the one without writing the other. It would be interesting,
perhaps, to many yet living, to read the history of the establishment
and progress of our beloved Church west of the "Tennessee," but
such is not the object or aim of the writer, nor does it come within
the plan of the present sketch. It is only meant to draw upon such
sources of history as are most intimately connected with the life
and labors of a single actor in those grand and glorious achievements
for Christ and his cause, which have resulted in the organization
of more churches, the making of more ministers, and the gathering
of more precious souls into the fold of Christ, under the auspices
of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, than have crowned our efforts
within the same number of square miles in any other locality. Truly
the precious seen sown by the early pioneer preachers of our Church
in what was then called the "Western District of Tennessee," and
the precious fruits which have been realized, serve to illustrate
the force and truth of the prophecy of king David, when he said,
"There shall be a handful of corn in the earch upon the top of the
mountains: the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon." Ps. lxxii.
16. If the reader will pardon what may seem to have been a digression
from the main subject, the writer will endeavor to give some account
of the labors of this noble servant of the Most High God.
He had charge of Shiloh and Shady Grove churches
during his whole ministerial life of nearly forty-six years, preaching
one Sabbath in the month to each of these congregations. Perhaps
no minister in the entire Cumberland Presbyterian Church can present
such a record as this. No other argument is necessary to prove his
fidelity and fitness for the pastoral work, than the fact above
mentioned. But to appreciate the good accomplished by this long
term of service, you should see those church records, and behold
the long catalogue of names of sinners who "were as a fire-brand
plucked out of the burning," a large majority of whom are at rest
with their beloved pastor be-yond the river; bot those that remain,
serve to verify the adage, "Like pastor - like people." The writer
has recently had access to the records of Shady Grove church, and
he could but mark the degree of order and system and punctuality,
with which all things were done. The motto of pastor and people
seems to have been, "Let things be done decently and in order."
Mr. Pickens also had charge of Green Bottom church five years, ot
of which grew Morning Sun and Pleasant Hill churches, and of Moriah
church five years at one time, and eight at another time. He had
charge of the church at Collierville, Tennessee, two years. He organized
Pleasant Grove church, and supplied it until 1850. He took charge
of it again in 1859, and continued preaching to it until the close
of his labors on earth. He organized what was called Old Union church,
in the early part of his ministry, which was a very large, influential,
and prosperous church for many years. In course of time, however,
it became depleted and disorganized. He re-organized it in the year
1866, under the name of Mr. Carmel, and preached to it one Sabbath
in the month until the year 1873. He rode the circuit in the bounds
of his Presbytery eighteen months at one time, besides other special
missionary labor. The records of the Presbytery would show to one
altogether unacquainted with him, that he was a man of more than
ordinary activity and devotion to the Church.
He was so exceedingly punctual in the discharge
of all his duties, both public and private, that he had become proverbial
in this regard. When he promised to be at a meeting we always looked
for him. When the Presbytery or the Synod were to meet, we expected
him to be present, and when he was appointed to attend the General
Assembly, which was often the case, we always expected him to go.
The records of his Presbytery show the fact, that of the ninety-two
regular meetings of his Presbytery that it was his duty to attend,
he was only absent at four meetings. And the records of the West
Tennessee Synod show that he was rarely ever absent.
The last thing that he wrote for the papers
of the Church, was an article for the Cumberland Presbyterian,
the week before his last illness, which was an address to the members
of his Synod upon their oft and repeated failures to attend the
meetings of the same. But before the article referred to was in
print, its author had fallen asleep in Jesus. After reading the
article I was forcibly reminded of the saying of Paul "He being
dead yet speaketh,." He had just attended the meeting of the West
Tennessee Synod two short months previous to his death, which convened
at Brownsville, Tennessee, a distance of forty miles from his home.
The distance was made by him in his buggy, carrying his elder (Bro.
J. Z. Gaither, of Shady Grove congregation) to sit with him in Synod.
He reached the place of meeting in time to preach the opening sermon
- the Moderator being absent. This duty was often imposed upon him
both in Synod and in Presbytery, because it was known to all the
brethren that he loved to preach, and was always willing and ready;
and as Paul said to the Romans on a certain occasion, Father Pickens
would say on all such occasions, "So as much as in me is, I am ready
to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also." - Rom. I. 15.
It is the opinion of the writer, that there was no one present on
the occasion of that Synodical communion, but carried with him away
from that place of ordinances a very precious and sweet remembrance
of the all-pervading presence of God by his gracious Spirit, while
his people were being served at his own table, by Father Pickens
of the Memphis, and Father McCutchan of the Obion, Presbytery. We
all felt that it was good to be there, and we will doubtless ever
remember the appointment that Father Pickens made, as it was his
custom to do for many years before his death upon such occasions,
"to meet us all in heaven, where parting will be no more, where
congregations ne'er break up, and Sabbaths never end." We must now
feel that the sainted father is gone to fill that appointment upon
his part. Will we meet him? Will we be ready when our summons comes?
Will we be able to say as he said just before the dread messenger
came: "It is nothing to die. It is sweet to die and be with Jesus."
He died December 12, 1876, after about ten days'
sickness. His disease was conjestion of the stomach and bowels.
Revs. Richard Inge and R. B. Flaniken were watchers at his bedside
for several days before his death. When the spirit had taken its
flight, and his friends saw that he had fallen asleep, Rev. M. Zellner
was sent for to preach his funeral. His relatives and friends, and
the Masonic lodge of which he had been an honored member and Master
for several years in the past, were all notified of his death and
the time of his funeral. Before the hour had arrived, the church
of Shiloh congregation - of which he had bee the shepherd for forty-six
years - in sight of his own dwelling, was well filled, as well as
the ground about the house, with sorrowing friends, and a bereft
flock, who had come to pay the last sad offices of respect to his
memory. O how their hearts must have swollen with sadness as they
brooded over their loss! They were as sheep having no earthly shepherd
for the first time in forty-six annual circuits of the sun. The
voice of him whom they had always loved would be heard no more.
All that was left of him whom they had all learned to call "Father
Pickens" and "Uncle Israel," was lifeless as the clay, and that
must now be buried out of sight. At the appointed hour for the funeral
the body was placed before the altar in the church, and Revs. M.
Zellner and R. B. Flaniken entered the pulpit. The Scripture lesson
read upon the occasion was the 23d Psalm. The text was: "Mark the
perfect man and behold the upright" for the end of that man is peace."
- Ps. xxxvii. 37. The sermon by Bro. Zellner was said to have been
one of the very best efforts of his life. A gentleman present, and
member of another church, said that he never heard a better sermon.
Bro. Zellner had known Father Pickens long and intimately, and had
been his son in the ministry, and it was fitting that he should
bear testimony to his worth. He had preached the funeral of nearly
half a score of Mr. Pickens' family who had preceded him to the
spirit land. After the sermon, the body was taken charge of by the
Masonic brethren present, who, with appropriate ceremonies, lowered
it into its last resting place on earth, there to await the resurrection
morn, and the sound of the trumpet of God, when he shall bid it
rise and put on its robe of immortality, and dwell with him forever
in the paradise above.
His funeral was again preached before the Memphis
Presbytery, at its spring meeting at New Salem church, Shelby county,
Tennessee, in connection with that of Rev. Tolbert Atherton, by
the Rev. Reuben Burrow, in accordance with a resolution of Presby-tery.
Bro. Burrow had known him longer, and was more intimate with him
in the early part of his own ministry, than any living member of
the Memphis Presbytery. He had come to the house of Father Pickens
when a beardless boy, on his way to preach Christ in the log church,
the rude shelter, and beneath bush arbors in this country. Father
Pickens did not send him on to find his way as best he could, but
went with him and preached with him, and encouraged him in every
possible way. After this, by order of the Presbytery, they were
sent out as missionaries together, according to the custom of apostolic
times, to preach to the destitute and waste places and hold camp
and protracted meetings, and many were added to the Church. This
memorial service of the Presbytery was peculiarly solemn and impressive.
The large audience present, and the tear that flows when the heart
if full, tell in fitting terms of his great moral worth.
Mr. Pickens was possessed of quite an even temper
and an amiable disposition. These were peculiarly characteristic
of the man, and won for him a large circle of friends. The name
of Father Pickens had become a sort of household word throughout
the bounds of the Memphis Presbytery; besides, he was a man known
for his devotion to the Church, and for his readiness to respond
to her every call, throughout the length and breadth of the whole
Church. It was but a small matter to enlist the interest of Father
Pickens in any and every enterprise that he had for its object the
good of the Church and the glory of God. Sometimes his brethren
thought him liberal beyond his means, and he would sometimes seem
to over-crop himself in the great harvest field. The writer remembers
an occasion upon which reference was made to his liberality by the
late and lamented Dr. Davis, in a spirit and manner that impressed
him with peculiar force. It was upon the occasion of the meeting
of West Tennessee Synod, in the town of Brownsville, Tennessee,
October, 1866. Rev. T. C. Blake, D. D., was there, as an agent for
the rebuilding of Cumberland University. The Doctor was invited
to address the Synod upon the subject of his mission, after which
he appealed to the Synod to assist in the great work of re-building
its own college. After there had been quite a number of liberal
responses to his earnest call, Mr. Pickens very modestly arose to
his feet, and told the agent that he would give a hundred dollars
to assist in the great work of re-building Cumberland University.
Dr. Davis was on his feet in a minute and said: "I feel sir, that
it will not be long until some rich man in this community will die;
and what, sir, will be said of him? Why, he has left a vast fortune.
In the course of a few years, at most, it will be said that my dear
Father Pickens is dead, and what will be said of him? Why, he has
gone to his reward in heaven." "Lay up for yourselves treasures
in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, wand where
thieves do not break through and steal." It was a true prophecy.
It was but a short time until a rich man died in that community,
and when he was dead, the best and most that could be said of him
was, that he had laid up a vast fortune on earth, and had gone into
eternity and left it all.
It will be remembered that a short time before
Mr. Pickens died, he responded to what was known then as the Waterhouse
proposition - to pay to the Board of Publication fifty dollars,
to assist in the purchase of a new book press. When he saw that
his work was done beneath the sun, he remembered this obligation,
and requested that his churches make good his obligation, and appointed
Bro. Inge to super-intend the matter; and it was done.
It is very well known that Mr. Pickens was not
what the world would be pleased to call a great preacher; and yet
he combined perhaps more of the elements of true greatness, in God's
account, than is often found in the same character. Some of these
elements he had to an eminent degree. I do not think that any one
could be more pious, and pure in heart, and honest in all he did
than he; and his record as to his punctuality in his attendance
upon all his duties, both public and private, beautifully and powerfully
attest the truth of his unwavering fidelity to his Church, his family,
and his country, in all their individual and collective interests.
He came as near up the writer's beau ideal of human goodness and
greatness -- the latter growing out of the former -- as any man
with whom he has ever been associated. And as a proof of all that
has been said upon this point, the reader is referred to the large
circle of friends, brethren, and sisters, that mourn the loss of
a worthy and efficient minister of the New Testament. He was through
life a most vigilant, laborious, and competent minister of the gospel.
He was exceedingly pleasant and companionable
in all his intercourse with his brethren. He always met them with
a smile. His person was rather striking. He was rather under medium
height, broad shouldered, and was very compactly built, and was
competent to endure a great deal of real service of body. His forehead
was broad and massive, his eyes were small but brilliant, and his
eyebrows heavy and projecting. There was something in the appearance
of the man that served to identify him with a noble race of men,
that belonged to the generation that are fast passing away. He was
exceeding uniform in all his habits through life. As soon as he
embraced religion, he erected his domestic altar, and at the time
of the offering of the morning and evening sacrifice, it was his
custom until the day of his death, to assemble his family and those
that happened to be within his gates, around the family hearth-stone,
where the Scriptures were read, and holy incense, in form of prayer
and praise, were offered to a throne of grace. Mr. Pickens was a
strong advocate of family religion, and the religious training of
children. He placed great importance upon the duty of parents to
dedicate their children to God in the ordinance of baptism. For
nearly twenty years before his death he dept a record of every days'
doings. He kept also a marriage record, from which it appears that
he had officiated in the marriage of two hundred and sixteen couples.
This of itself, in the absence of other proof, would go to show
that he was a great favorite in the church and in the country in
which he dwelt.
It is a fact worthy of record in this place,
that Mr. Pickens always took a very decided stand in favor of all
sorts of moral reform. He connected himself with the temperance
reform at a very early period in its history in this country, and
became one of its boldest and most devoted advocates. He joined
the Sons of Temperance about forty years ago, and remained a member
while the institution remained in that form. After the late war
the institution was revived, and prospered for several years in
the South. Finally the Grand Division of North America passed some
resolutions in reference to the "color line," that were obnoxious
to the State Divisions in the South, on account of which they withdrew
from the International Division, and united with the Friends of
Temperance under the new name of "United Friends of Temperance."
Mr. Pickens connected himself with this new organization, and continued
a member and strong advocate of its principles until death.
A little incident in his history in this connection
serves to show the sincerity and honesty of his own heart. About
thirty years ago, while he was traveling over the country advocating
the temperance cause, and exhorting the people to deny themselves
and be sober, his own consciousness reminded him that he was intemperate
himself, in that he was addicted to the use of tobacco. His conscience
smote him until he resolved to give it up, which he did, and was
ever afterwards free from its use and abuse. Many of his brethren
in the ministry would do well to imitate his example in this regard.
The manner of Mr. Pickens was his own; he never
seemed to copy after any man. Individuality was a very prominent
train in his character. He was always impressive in spirit and in
personal appearance. There was no lack of a good measure of gravity
in his deportment at all times. His countenance and voice were grave,
solemn, and impressive. His words, both in the pulpit and in society,
were well selected. His manners were comely and chaste. He loved
his brethren devotedly, and had a most profound respect for the
I wish in this place to insert an extract from
a letter bearing date of February 1, 1878, from the Rev. David P.
Coffey, who was ordained at the same Presbytery with Bro. Pickens.
"Mr. Pickens was not an educated man, but generally
correct in the use of language. He was not eloquent, but earnest
and impressive. He had clear and strong convictions of man's sinful
state, and equally clear and strong views of the fullness of redemption
through the blood of Christ, to save all men. On these doctrines
he devoted his life. In all his efforts he was never satisfied without
some evidence of effect. Bro. Pickens was not a Paul, a Cephas,
or an Apollow; but like Barnabas, he was a good man, full of faith
and the Holy Ghost, and much people were added to the Lord. His
ministry was not as brilliant as some others, but it was a success.
He was a consecrated minister. He did his work, and did it well.
He was no grumbler."
The above was not written to become a part of
this sketch, but it affords such an accurate "pen picture" of the
man as a minister of righteousness, drawn by the hand of one well
acquainted with every feature of the subject, and one well and favorably
known to those who will take most interest in the perusal of these
pages, that it is cheerfully given. A score of others would, perhaps,
bear testimony in fitting terms to his great worth, but space forbids.
He would sometimes, and upon suitable occasions did, indulge in
some well timed pleasantry with his brethren, but was entirely free
from anything like levity such as would tend to mar his influence,
or weaken the confidence of the ungodly in his sincerity and purity.
Be it said to his praise, that during his entire Christian life
of more than fifty years, the world never doubted his purity, but
in all the relations of life he was believed to be honest and upright,
and unwavering in his fidelity to what he believed to be right.
The history of such a man is a legacy to the Church, as it seems
to illustrate and establish in a practical sense, the force of a
Mr. Pickens was a good Presbyter. He was always
safe in council. He was frequently chosen Moderator of his Presbytery.
He always filled the office with dignity to himself and to the cause.
He made an excellent moderator. His brethren always manifested a
great deal of respect for his rulings and decisions as a presiding
officer. His executive strength lay chiefly in what he conceived
to be right. In the early part of his ministry he was associated
with the venerable Reuben Burrow, and he seems to have caught much
of the spirit and devotion of that great and good man.
By an act of Synod in the fall of 1839, the
Forked Deer Presbytery and the Hatchie Presbytery were consolidated
under the name of Union Presbytery. By the appointment of Synod,
this Presbytery held its first meeting in the town of Brownsville,
Haywood county, Tennessee, on Saturday, the 11th of April,
A. D., 1840. The opening sermon was preached by the Rev. Reuben
Burrow, from Matt. Ix. 37, 38. It will be remembered that this was
at the close of the first decade in the ministerial life of Mr.
Pickens. Ministers present, Revs. Reuben Burrow, Samuel Dennis,
Israel S. Pickens, Jas. C. Foster, T. W. Hawks, R. A. A. Moorman,
H. S. Morgan, Y. A. McLemore, and Thomas Horton, all of whom are
gone to their rewards except Bros. Moorman and McLemore, both of
whom are still honored and useful ministers in the Church, and members
of the Madison Presbytery. Ten years later I find the Memphis Presbytery
composed of the following ministers, viz.: Revs. Samuel Dennis,
Israel S. Pickens, Robert Frazier, David P. Coffey, W. Whitsett,
W. A. Cothran, Reuben Burrow, Jr., J. C. Wiley, Thomas McClelland,
J. P. Wilson, and J. A. Haynes. These have all finished their labors
beneath the sun, and gone up to the "General Assembly and Church
of the First Born," except Bros. Cothran and Burrow still members
of the Memphis Presbytery, and Bros. Coffey and Wiley, now members
of the Searcy Presbytery, Arkansas. These still remain on earth
in the days of their usefulness, laboring and toiling in the vineyard
of the Lord, and waiting for the Master to say, It is enough, come
In the year of our Lord, 1851, Rev. M. Zellner
was ordained to the whole work of the ministry, and from that time
on, through the entire life of Father Pickens, he was perhaps more
intimately associated with him than any member of the Presbytery.
Their ministerial work lay near together, and as a matter of course,
they assisted each other in their work, and as a legitimate result,
their hearts were like unto the hearts of Johnathan and David. They
were willing to labor with and for each other, and bear each other's
burdens, that they might so fulfill the law of Christ. Bro. Zellner
still remains an honored soldier of Immanuel, and through he has
suffered great bodily affliction, he has made his mark, and will
leave his impression for good upon the Church when he is gone to
his eternal reward on high.
Honorable mention might be made of others who
have stood with the subject of this sketch shoulder to shoulder,
and have shared with him alike in toil and in triumph, but time
would fail me to tell of Bryan, and Bryan, and McClellan, and Porter,
and Thomas, and Winford, and Davis, and Ewing, and Dunaway, and
Bone, and Ransom, and Atherton, gone with him to the bright world
above, while the Burneys, and Pope, and Miller, and McPherson, are
still left to finish their ministry before they go hence, and be
no more. There is something grand and glorious in the thought of
being able to finish the work allotted to a poor minister of Jesus
Christ in this world! Yes, and to finish it with joy and not with
grief. Oh how it must have thrilled the soul of the great apostle,
after that he had borne the burden and heat of the day, after persecutions
and afflictions for his work's sake were all over-past, in full
view of heaven, he could say: "I am now ready to be offered, and
the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there
is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous judge will give me in that day, and not to me only, but
unto all those that love his appearing."